Nonprofit Chief Executives Should Have The Title Of President/CEO

This post, over several years, has developed a record of continued viewing interest. Rarely a day passes in which the data doesn’t include one or two views, or occasionally a day in which the viewer’s data can rise to five. For example, when previously updated in 2016 there were 525 post views and counting.  Perhaps the controversial nature of the topic causes the longevity of interest.

When nonprofit organizations reach a budget level of over $1 million and have about 10 staff members it is time to offer the chief operating officer the title of PRESIDENT/CEO. In addition, the title of the senior board volunteer should become CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD, and the title of EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR needs to be eliminated. Experience has shown that with a reasonably talented PRESIDENT/CEO at the helm, he/she can provide the following benefits:

✅ Build a trust culture between board, management, and staff.

✅ Solve many operational problems that have previously been referred to the board.

✅ Operate with fewer standing board committees.

✅ Form a well-structured fund-raising partnership with board members.

✅ Develop an entrepreneurial theme internally

✅ Improve operational communications.

✅ Assist the board chair in conducting meetings in a more effective manner.

✅ Make certain board members have meaningful involvement in the affairs of the organization.

✅ Develop more cost-effective programs and processes.

✅ Allow the board to focus on its major responsibilities, development of policies and strategies.

Controversy still surrounds this proposal, although the benefits of providing the title for appropriate chief executives remain clear, for several reasons. *In some instances, an ED is comfortable with the lower levels of responsibilities h/she currently has and doesn’t want the full operational responsibilities designated by the title. In other instances, the habit or culture of the board prevents the utilization of the title. Finally, although some state laws restrict the use of the title by a full-time paid managers to executive director, the issue becomes further clouded when the board also wants to make any management or staff member a voting member of the board. Positive change can be difficult!

Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips – Third Edition (2011)

* For additional arguments, see:


Dr. Eugene Fram
Dr. Eugene Fram
Eugene H. Fram, Ed.D., is an expert in nonprofit governance, a business consultant and an award-winning emeritus professor of the Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). He is also the author of six books and more than 125 published articles and has been widely quoted by national media on topics ranging from business to high-performance nonprofits. His blog platforms on nonprofit governance have in excess of 3500 followers. He is a past recipient of RIT's highest award for outstanding teaching and one of a very select group awarded the Presidential Medallion, given to those making exceptionally significant contributions to the university. In 2012, a former student anonymously contributed $3 million to endow an RIT Chair in Critical Thinking in his name, an honor Dr. Fram describes as "a professor's dream come true!" Over his distinguished career, he has served on 12 nonprofit boards overseeing diverse community, national and professional organizations, and also has served on five for-profit boards. His particular passion is helping nonprofit boards perform at high levels as more is expected of these boards today than most people realize. He is the author of Going For Impact – The Nonprofit Director's Essential Guidebook: What to Know, Do and Not Do, and POLICY vs. PAPER CLIPS - How Using the Corporate Model Makes a Nonprofit Board More Efficient & Effective.

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